UK applies new simplified extradition procedures to USA and over a hundred other countries

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- controversial UK-US treaty ratified
- use of Statutory Instrument "an abuse of democracy"- shadow Home Secretary
- UK Extradition Act 2003 given full effect
- UK citizens and non-nationals may now be extradited on the basis of "information" rather than actual "evidence" to 108 countries, from Albania to Zimbabwe

On 1 January 2004, by Order of the Home Secretary David Blunkett, the UK's "Category 2" extradition partners were decided. This apparently innocuous measure has the effect of ratifying the controversial Extradition Treaty between the UK and the USA, signed by UK Home Secretary David Blunkett and US Attorney General Tom Ashcroft on 31 March 2003. This agreement removes the requirement on the US to provide prima facie evidence when requesting the extradition of people from the UK, but maintains the requirement on the UK to provide evidence to satisfy the US constitution's "probable cause" when seeking the extradition of US nationals.

The Order designating the category 2 countries (SI 2003/3334) implements the UK Extradition Act 2003 and opens the way for the extradition of suspects from the UK on the basis of "information" - rather than actual "evidence" - to the US and another 107 countries, many with dubious human rights records. The Act covers UK citizens and third-country nationals.

No debate or vote on extradition treaty with US

The entry into force of Statutory Instrument 2003 No. 3334 means that the UK-US extradition treaty will have been signed and ratified with no prior debate and no parliamentary vote. The Home Secretary signed the Treaty with his US counterpart under "royal prerogative" (powers which were never "democratised") and delegated powers (the 1989 Extradition Act). Parliament was not consulted and did not receive the text of the Treaty until almost two months after its signature.

On 20 November 2003 the recently agreed UK Extradition Act entered force. The Act contains two different sets of extradition procedures. The first is for EU member states applying the European Arrest Warrant ("category 1" countries; the EAW entered into force on 1 January 2004 between the UK and seven other EU member states). The second set of rules covers extradition to the "category 2" countries (these rules are explained below). Article 69(1) of the Extradition Act 2003 allows the Home Secretary to designate the category 2 countries by way of Statutory Instrument (SIs, also known as "Orders").

Statutory instruments

SIs are a form of legislation that allow the provisions of an Act of Parliament to be brought into force or altered without a formal Act of Parliament (they are also referred to as secondary, delegated or subordinate legislation). SIs are subject to "parliamentary approval" only in the sense that they "laid before Parliament". Draft SIs in fact automatically become law after a short period if no-one objects. There are were more than 3,000 SIs in 2003. A Joint Committee (comprised of MPs and Lords) on Statutory Instruments, and several committees in the House of Commons, "supervise" the process. The Joint Committee should report "unusual or unexpected" SIs to parliament.

The two draft SIs designating the category 1 and 2 countries in the Extradition Act were considered together with a third (on the UK authorities that can issue EAWs) on 15 December 2003 by the Third Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation in the House of Commons. Together, they would give full effect to the UK Extradition Act 2003.

The Committee's debate on the three draft SIs lasted a little over an hour and began with several committee

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